Local Control is Not in the Contract with WYDOT
Recently, the Teton County Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve an agreement to turn over the analysis, planning and execution of the Tribal Trails Connector (TTC), a proposed road plan that has been a controversial topic in Jackson Hole for over 20 years. Board Chair Luther Propst was the only dissenting Commissioner.
The Conservation Alliance, in our public comment on the matter, expressed the concern that turning over all the planning and control for the TTC to WYDOT, given the range of opinions and passions for and against the project over the years, would not generate the best outcome. Surrendering planning and control would not be in the best interests of the community.
We had concluded, after over two years of intense study of the HWY 22 Corridor, that the TTC would be best evaluated after the HWY 22 solution was identified, finalized and executed. We and those who have read the report, were concerned that the TTC might not be necessary after the alterations to HWY 22 and other recommended demand management policies were in place. Nelson Nygaard, nationally acclaimed transportation planners and engineers and our partners in the project, emphasized that was a possible, even likely outcome.
WYDOT, in their presentation to the BCC, emphasized that Teton County stood to save significant funds in the planning and construction of the TTC by turning over the entire planning process to them, a point of view that we interpreted as a sign they were anxious to build the TTC concurrent with changes to HWY22. The BCC 4-1 vote sealed the deal, and the agreement was signed.
A recent review of that agreement between Teton County and WYDOT by a contract law specialist found several areas of concern. The specialist observed that the agreement appeared to be “a rewrite of a contract WYDOT would have with a road contractor or other WYDOT contractor.”
Three examples of of the contract elements and language were cited by the specialist as illustrative of the County’s lack of control:
- “The Board of County Commissioners gives up any leverage to make this project context-sensitive to community values.“
- Section 5.D. – “Teton County must participate ‘. . . and commit . . . to WYDOT’s preferred alternative.”
- “If the project is not built, the county agrees to reimbursement of WYDOT, at federal rates, plus their ‘indirect cost’ rate. This is a huge incentive to build, no matter what the public wants.”
This is not the clarion call of local control and County and WYDOT cooperation.
Photo by Sky Garnick